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NEWS | Nov. 22, 2013

Road to CCAF: 'Top-up' G.I. Bill benefits

By Senior Airman Teresa Aber 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Editor's Note: This story is a part of a series about the various ways U.S. Air Force Airmen can earn their Community College of the Air Force degree.

For Airmen who are working toward earning their Community College of the Air Force degree, using Tuition Assistance is a great way to pay for classes. However, for those that have used the maximum amount available through MilTA, the Top-up benefit allows Airmen to tap into their G.I. Bill to cover remaining education costs.

In order to qualify for the Montgomery G.I. Bill or the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, Airmen must have completed high school or have an equivalency certificate, such as a general education diploma, before applying for benefits. Airmen must also have served at least two years on active duty. Those who are eligible may use the Top-up benefit only if they have been approved for MilTA and selected the Top-up option on their MilTA application.

"It is vital that Airmen make sure the box is checked if they want to use Top-up," said Ronald Duquette, 633rd Force Support Squadron education service specialist. "Otherwise, the education center is going to assume you are using grants and scholarships to pay what MilTA won't pay for, or you are paying the rest out of pocket."

If an Airman receives the Top-up benefit, their regular G.I. Bill benefits will be reduced in different ways, depending on which G.I. Bill option they have.

"Each G.I. Bill has different benefits and requirements," said Olivia Hawkins, 633rd FSS education service specialist. "It is important for Airmen to learn about both options before deciding which one they wish to use."

When utilizing the Montgomery G.I. Bill, entitlement is charged based on the dollar amount of benefits the Department of Veterans Affairs pays to the individual. They will be charged one month of entitlement for each payment they receive that is equal to the full-time monthly rate for the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

"Let's say, for example, the amount individuals are getting every month is $1400," said Hawkins. "MilTA paid the maximum amount allowed per semester hour, but the Airman still needs $700 to pay for the classes. The $700 is half the monthly entitlement for the MGIB, so it counts as only using half of one month of their MGIB. So now instead of having 36 months left [of entitlement benefits], they have 35 and a half."

When utilizing the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, entitlement is charged based on the training time the Airman is enrolled in; either full-time or part-time. If they are attending classes at the half-time training level, they will be charged one half of a month of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits for each month they are enrolled and receiving G.I. Bill benefits, regardless of how much money they are reimbursed.

"If the Airman is in the same situation, but has the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and need $700, it does not matter how much money the class costs," said Hawkins. "Their benefits are charged based on how long the term is. So if their class is four months long, they have used four months from their Post 9/11 G.I. Bill so now they have 32 months [of benefits] remaining available instead of 36 months."

According to Hawkins, the G.I. Bills may seem difficult to understand, so it is important for Airmen to get as much information as possible before deciding to use the Top-up benefit.

"We can help Airmen, but the best piece of advice we have for them is to consult the VA office about their individual situation," said Hawkins. "You can never have too much information when making a decision that affects your CCAF degree and your future."

For more information, contact the Langley Education Center at 764-2962 or visit the VA G.I. Bill website at www.gibill.va.gov